History of African American Studies at Princeton

Program in African American Studies
Center for African American Studies
Department of African American Studies

The History of Directors of African American Studies at Princeton

1994–1997, Director
1970–1973, Director
2001–2002, Acting Director
1988–1994, Director
1973–1987, Director
1990–1991, Acting Director; 1997–2000, Director
2000–2001, Acting Director
1985–1988, Acting Director
1969 – 1970, Director
2002– 2005, Director
2012–2013, Acting Chair
2009 – 2012, Director; 2013 – present, Director & Chair

The Program in African American Studies

By the end of the 1970-71 academic year, the Program has a total of twenty-eight concentrators and six graduate students. One year later, three postdoctoral fellows, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, came to study under the auspices of the Program. Furthermore with the stellar appointments of John Jemmott, Toni Morrison, Cornel West, and Nell Painter, the Program took on a new life. The period of the early to mid-nineties was a critical watershed era for the Program. A host of highly visible, influential scholars such as Arnold Rampersad, Wahneema Lubiano, Kevin Gaines, Carol Swain, and later Gina Dent, Claudia Tate, and Donna Jones were hired. Under the direction of Cornel West (1988-94), Arnold Rampersad (1994-97), and Nell Painter (acting director in 1990-91 and director from 1997-2000).

The Center for African American Studies

In 2005, President Shirley Tilghman convened an Ad Hoc Committee to reflect on the future of African American Studies at Princeton. The committee was chaired by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Drawing on the recommendations of the 1987 Self-Study, Professor Painter’s recommendations, and Professor Smith’s stewardship, the committee recommended in 2006 the formation of the Center for African American Studies (CAAS), with Professor Smith as founding chair.  In 2009, Eddie Glaude was appointed chair. Tera Hunter has since succeeded Daphne Brooks as director of undergraduate studies. 

The Department of African American Studies

In the summer of 2015 the University Board of Trustees voted to create a new department for African American studies. Blueprints for the Center to departmentalize have been in place since its creation in 2006. “It happens that there’s a convergence between what we’ve been doing on ground with African American studies and this moment on campus,” Glaude said. “I think it reflects how appropriate this decision is for the moment. I don’t think there is a better time to do it then now.” The faculty today includes leading scholars trained in a variety of disciplines from political science to comparative literature and includes Imani Perry, Tera Hunter, Naomi Murakawa, Wallace Best, Joshua Guild, Ruha Benjamin, Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor, and Wendy Laura Belcher.